Friday, November 10, 2017

An Interview With Spin Dockless Bikeshare

Ready to ride. Photo courtesy of Spin
In September, dockless bikeshare arrived in Washington, D.C., the city that had already proved that a bikeshare station system can work in North America.  Suddenly, in addition to the red Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) bikes, there were the yellow ofo bikes, orange Spin bikes, silver and orange Mobikes, bright green and yellow LimeBikes, and red Jump! ebikes.  Gear Prudence compared the new D.C. bikeshare options to a bag of Skittles

These new bikes are so-called "smart bikes" that are unlocked using each company's apps. The different brands provide options from single-speeds and 3-speeds to ebikes. The Washington Post test rode four of the bikes and provided its first impressions here

An initial issue with dockless in D.C. was where to park them.  They were found inside Metro stations, CaBi docks, blocking sidewalks. David Alpert suggested that the best place to park them was between tree boxes between the street and sidewalk. We'll see if a parking etiquette takes hold.

The big picture question for D.C. and other cities, however, is whether dockless bikeshare is here to stay. Is this really a thing?  To investigate, we sent some questions to Spin. They were gracious enough to provide some answers. 

Spin Q&A


How did Spin get started?  

Spin is the first company to debut the stationless bikeshare concept in America. Dockless bikeshare did not exist in the U.S. prior to 2017 so it was important to build relationships and educate local government on the benefits first. For example, since there was no pre-existing regulations/permits for dockless, Spin worked with the SDOT’S Kyle Rowe (who they recently brought on to their team internally) to create a landmark permit to allow this innovation to benefit both the government and its citizens.


What has your experience been like with the DC launch? How does it compare with what you've seen in other cities where you operate?  

We knew D.C. would be a perfect fit for dockless bike-share. Washington D.C. is consistently ranked among the top biking cities in the country, has a track record of forward thinking transportation policies, and is a city that teaches all students how to ride a bike. As a city, Washington D.C. has ambitious climate change goals which are in favor of alternative modes of transportation.


The big question I keep hearing about dockless is "aren't these bikes going to be stolen or damaged?" How do you respond to this question?  

Unlike other bikeshare companies, Spin has a dedicated staff on the ground in every city in which we operate to ensure that bikes are conveniently and legally placed. Spin will dispatch a ground operations member within 1 hour between the hours of  9am-7pm to deal with bikes reported as obstructing public right of way, with after-hours requests managed the following morning. Spin users and the general public can also report bikes 24/7 via the website or the app. Thanks to our GPS tracking technology, we can anticipate and prevent bikes from piling up.

We've seen pictures on twitter of damaged bikes. How common is this and how do you deal with this?  
Most people are treating our bikes responsibly and with respect. While there are certainly instances of irresponsible use, it’s up to us to be proactive about addressing those issues, through our ground ops team and through community engagement.


The Spin bikes that I've seen are single speeds, have a front basket, and a chainguard. Is that standard for all of your bikes?  

The bikes are all mostly identical. We tweak them as needed for each landscape. For example, we have a customized bike created just for Seattle to be able to handle that particular terrain. But generally, those features are standard. 
 
Do they all have headlights and taillights?

Yes.

How do you make a bike "weather proof"?

Spin changes the bikes based on terrain so when the winter comes there will likely be an update.

Your blog mentions "rogue" bikeshare operators. What has your experience been with other dockless companies? Has the competition been fair? Is there a market for multiple dockless companies like we're seeing in DC?  
By rogue bikeshare operators, we mean competitors that enter cities without permission. Spin is dedicated to working closely with cities to establish clear procedures for permitting and a pathway to success that benefits both cities and riders. Essentially we want to complement existing systems in each city versus focus on beating out competitors.
When you come into a city like DC, how do you measure success?
We have been deliberate about rolling out and learning from community feedback, especially in terms of placement. One ways we track success is getting data on the number of rides per bike per day. So far, ridership has been incredible.

Will bikeshare spread from cities to less dense towns and suburbs, or is density the key? 
We are currently launching in cities, however, we are extending our focus to other communities and regions as well. One of our values is equitable transportation, so providing affordable bikes to all underserved communities.  We have recently launched on select college campuses located in more rural areas to bring bikeshare to new areas. Spin’s technology allows for bluetooth connection to unlock and ride the bikes when cellular storage and data are limited, so there’s definitely opportunity to bring the bikes beyond city streets.